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The Ten Commandments:
A Rock of Scandal to the Modern World

Joseph Sheppard

The earthly powers that be have rendered their judgment in the case of the public display of God’s Decalogue. While our coinage (for now) still bears the words “In God We Trust”, we are told the Ten Commandments cannot be publicly displayed. One wonders which “god” it is that we are supposed to be trusting.

What objections might there be to the display of the Ten Commandments? What could it be in the laws from God that might disturb someone? Could it be that our civil laws no longer reflect God’s laws? Perhaps some are uneasy with the guilt they feel at finding themselves so often at odds with God’s will and do not wish to be reminded.

When we examine the state of moral decay today in the light of God’s laws it becomes obvious why a public display of those laws is not tolerated. Let us remind ourselves of what is so intolerable about the Decalogue in our modern world.
1. God tells us “I am the Lord thy God, thou shall have no other gods before Me.” But we live in a country whose laws stress that all religions are equally legitimate. All “gods” have equal rights in the USA. The very concept is a mockery of God’s First Commandment, and yet the typical American views such an idea as an exercise in fairness.

2. We are commanded not to use the Lord’s name in vain, yet musicians are protected by their “First Amendment rights” to do precisely this, claiming that they are “artists.”

3. We are told to keep the Sabbath holy. For many Catholics, encouraged to go to the Saturday “anticipatory Mass,” this means not having to bother with Mass on Sunday. Sunday has become a day of rest from holy things, unless football and auto-racing are to be considered holy. For many Americans Sunday is only a day for recreation. There was a time when all businesses closed on Sundays out of respect for this commandment. Now “24 hours a day and seven days a week” has become the rule rather than the exception. After all, to designate a particular day as a day of religious observance would be “discriminatory.” Of course there is no end to other government sanctioned “holidays” such as Earth Day, Independence Day, and Grandmothers Day, which are more likely to be solemnly observed.

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The controversial Ten Commandments monument banned from public view at the Alabama Judiciary building

The Tidings, August 29, 2003
4. God commands us to honor our father and mother. Tragically, due to the modern onslaught against the family that comes from loose morals and accepted decadent lifestyles, children too often do not have a mother and father to honor. Our laws increasingly provide a “right” to behave in ways that work to destroy the family. How, for instance, is a child who is the victim of a parent that has been frequently divorced and “remarried” to follow this commandment? Further, television and movies portray disobedient children who mock their parents as normal and precocious. Finally, it is becoming the norm in this modern world for parents to see little of their children, who are dropped off at school and then taken to “day care.” If there is no honor paid to our earthly parents, it is no wonder that men despise the laws of their Father in Heaven.

5. “Thou shall not murder” we are commanded, yet our laws endorse abortion, a daily slaughter of our own children. There is also an increased tendency towards the acceptance of euthanasia in the laws.

6. In the Sixth Commandment we are told: “Thou shall not commit adultery.’ Today, we find the highest court in our land taking the attitude that any sin of the flesh is permissible as long as it is done in private. In reality, this commandment is frequently broken publicly. When people of prestige and power are found to be guilty of this sin, it seldom tarnishes their reputations, and lamentably, has enhanced the careers of innumerable politicians, athletes, musicians and actors.

7. In God’s seventh law we are commanded not to steal. In the world today a socialist mentality encourages many to believe they have a right to steal. Inequities in material wealth are considered to be the greatest evil, so we witness a lack of respect for private property. For example, in the name of “agrarian reform” and “social justice,” we see landless peoples occupying private property in some countries. Such efforts are often led by Catholic clergy.

8. We are commanded to not bear false witness in the Eighth Commandment. There would seem to be many modern exceptions to this law, as demonstrated by those running for political office.

9. God commands men to not covet their neighbor’s wife. Given the already mentioned immoral ambience fostered by bad media, and the bad example of leaders and celebrities, we witness ever less respect for the sacrament of marriage.

10. Finally we are commanded to not covet our neighbor’s goods. Crass commercialism encourages the breaking of this commandment. Our worth is not measured by the state of our souls, but by the material possessions we flaunt. Jealousies arise and are encouraged between those who have and those who have not.
Reflecting on the dichotomy between the laws of God and the laws of man, we realize how far we have strayed from the path that leads to our eternal salvation. As Catholics, we examine our consciences in the Sacrament of Penance using the Ten Commandments as a guide. We express our sorrow for our sins and vow to amend our ways. We do penance. We know that we do not have sanctifying grace if we remain in a state of mortal sin. For so many poor souls today, there would seem to be no remedy for their transgressions. Indeed, they often follow an opposite path, rationalizing and justifying evil behavior, as they no longer acknowledge their Creator and His love for them.

If the public display of the Ten Commandments cannot be tolerated near our judicial edifices, how long will it be before any such public display of our faith in God is forbidden? Those who despise God usually work incrementally when imposing their will on society. If the display of God’s laws in front of a court house offends someone, cannot the display of a cross or a statue of a saint disturb someone else? If we allow recent history to serve as a guide, it is easy to predict that, because of the scandal it brings upon “liberated” modern man, all public display of the True Faith will be increasingly removed from public view. Man will attempt to subject God’s laws to his own. We will also see a corresponding increase in the public display of man’s moral decadence.

Let us pray that man, through the intercession of the Most Pure and Blessed Virgin Mary, will correspond to grace and apply the eternal wisdom of God’s law to his own.


Blason de Charlemagne
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Posted Septmber 4, 2003

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